Friday, May 06, 2005

House Panel OKs School Voucher Bill

House Panel OKs School Voucher Bill

09:41 PM CDT on Thursday, May 5, 2005

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Fiercely debated legislation that would allow low-income and at-risk students in Dallas and other urban school districts to transfer to private schools at state expense was approved Thursday by the House Public Education Committee.

The private school voucher bill, passed at a hastily called meeting of the committee, would enable thousands of students in Dallas, Fort Worth and at least five other urban districts to attend private schools as long as those schools satisfy certain requirements, such as annual testing of students.

Committee members approved the measure on a 6-3 vote, with all three Democrats on the panel voting no.

The measure, which faces an uphill battle for passage, now goes to the full House. The Senate has not considered private school vouchers this session.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, author of the bill, said that students in greatest need are poor, at risk of dropping out, in special education or victims of school violence.

Further she said, her legislation limits the number of students who would be eligible for vouchers to 5 percent of each district's enrollment through 2008. That figure represents about 30,000 students statewide.

Opponents – including virtually every public-education group in the state – assert that the voucher scheme would deal a huge blow to public schools, depriving them of millions of dollars at a time when many districts are cutting programs and employees to make ends meet.

A Legislative Budget Board fiscal note on the bill indicated that if 15,000 students take advantage of the voucher option, the seven school districts would lose nearly $70 million in funding.

"Legislators need to do the math," said Carolyn Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Public Schools, which represents most school districts and education groups in the state. "We can't afford to take away money from public schools to subsidize private schools in Texas."

Another group, Texas Freedom Network, called the legislation a "payback" to wealthy campaign contributors who want to see tax dollars used to fund private schools.

Those groups warned that tax funding for private schools could eventually reach $600 million a year under the bill.

Voucher supporters have been trying for several years to pass legislation setting up a pilot program in Texas, but they have been unsuccessful – even though there were backed by former Gov. George Bush, Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders.

Public opinion polls have generally indicated that most Texans are opposed to use of their tax dollars for private school education.

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1 comment:

  1. Are legislators blind? Or maybe just the Republican ones since all the Democrats voted no on this bill. As harsh as that is, it does not seem they pay attention to the real hard facts that show how detrimental vouchers are to our public schools. The Legislative Budget Board itself stated that if 15,000 students were to use the voucher program the districts would lose nearly $70 million in funding, where keep in mind that Rep. Brown’s legislation would make 30,000 students eligible. So how are we not “Leaving Children Behind?” What about the students that are left behind in these inadequate schools which are now facing an even greater dearth of funding? I am on board with the Texas Freedom Network that calls this a legislation “payback” to the wealthy campaign contributors who want to fund private schools. Research has shown that indeed vouchers actually help the upper class than these “poor, at risk of dropping out, in special education or victims of school violence” children that Rep. Brown is supposedly cheerleading for. As Steven stated what about transportation concerns? And the private schools still have the final say on who gets to come and who doesn’t, you can guarantee that these “poor” children will not be able to go to these top notch private schools because they will not be able to pay the difference the voucher does not cover. Whatever happened to fixing the problem at the root, instead of making it worse?